President Lambert: Elon has been 'my valley of love and delight'

President Leo M. Lambert and his family were honored at a special College Coffee on Feb. 14, as the campus community came together to thank him for his 18 years of service. 

President Leo M. Lambert, surrounded by his family, speaks at College Coffee on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. 
PHOTO GALLERY: College Coffee Honoring President Lambert

Alumni Gym was full Tuesday morning, as the campus community came together to honor President Leo M. Lambert for his service to Elon over the past 18 years, guiding the university to a place of national prominence. 

President Leo M. Lambert blows a kiss to the hundreds gathered in Alumni Gym for a special College Coffee on Feb. 14, 2017. 
​The special College Coffee gathering followed the February 13 announcement that Lambert will be concluding his presidency. He will remain in office until his successor is ready to assume the presidency.

The College Coffee event provided Lambert with an opportunity to reflect on his role as Elon’s eighth president. He turned to the lyrics of “Simple Gifts,” the Shaker hymn that he first cited when he was introduced as Elon’s new president in the fall of 1998. “When we find ourselves in the place just right, ’twill be in the valley of love and delight,'” Lambert said, reciting a fitting line from the hymn. 

​”I believed then, as I do today, that it was providential and truly a gift from God that I had come down to this place where I was truly meant to be,” said Lambert, with his wife, Laurie, and his family by his side. “Elon has been my valley of love and delight.”

Lambert said Laurie has been “a source of strength and love and one of Elon’s greatest champions.” He also noted the support and encouragement of his daughters, Mollie Lambert and Callie Brown, and Callie’s husband, David Brown, and spoke with delight about his grandchildren, Caleb and Anna Louise Brown. 

“This is noble and important work, and I have delighted in having you as my students, my colleagues and my dear friends,” Lambert said. “Thank you for the privilege of serving and loving Elon for so many wonderful years.”

​Lambert began his work as Elon’s eighth president on Jan. 1, 1999, when total enrollment was about 4,000. Since then, as Board of Trustees Chair Kerrii Anderson ’79 noted for the crowd, Elon University has grown to an enrollment of more than 6,700 students. 

“When Leo took office in 1998, most of today’s undergraduates were infants or toddlers,” Anderson said. “They don’t remember a time when there was no Belk Library, no Academic Village, no Koury Business Center, no Rhodes Stadium, no Global Neighborhood, Colonnades or The Oaks. Elon has built more than 100 buildings under Leo’s leadership!

“And today’s students don’t have a full understanding of the academic progress Elon has made under Leo’s guidance. We’ve gained a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and established schools of Communications, Education, Health Sciences and Law. And many don’t fully appreciate the hard work that went into moving a school that was ranked #16 among Southern Universities to become national leader in engaged learning and student success.”

Anderson told the crowd that the community stands at a special moment in Elon’s history. “Our goal is to maintain Elon’s momentum and ensure that the next president is prepared to take the reins from Leo and continue the university’s progress.”

Charged with the task of identifying Elon’s next president is a 15-member Search Committee to be headed by trustee Wes Elingburg P’11, with fellow trustees Noel Allen ’69, who headed the search committee that selected Lambert, and Kebbler McGhee Williams ’98, serving as co-vice-chairs. The committee’s membership is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks and will include eight university trustees (five are alumni and four are Elon parents), three faculty members, two students, one staff member and one member of senior staff. 

President Leo M. Lambert surrounded by his family at College Coffee on Feb. 14, 2017. 
​The Board of Trustees has enlisted executive search firm Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates to help with the search. “Elon’s success story is known nationwide, and we expect to attract the attention of very, very highly qualified individuals,” Elingburg told the crowd. 

In its search, the committee will rely on feedback and input from the broader university community, Elingburg explained, with meetings and forums on campus beginning in mid-March to solicit thoughts about the desired qualities and qualifications of the next president. Members of the Elon community are also invited to share ideas and learn about the process on a website dedicated to the search process —

“I know our search committee members will be very mindful of the responsibility they are taking on in this process, and I guarantee that we will work hard to recruit the finest leader to join this great university,” Elingburg said.